There’s nothing more awesome than a Conference.
Conferences are among my favorite kind of judge gatherings. They have all the nice moments, the exchanges, the stories, the dinners, the traveling, without any stressful event to run in the background. They’re like holidays with benefits.
Way back in 2008, when Nationals still happened and dinosaurs scoured the lands, I went to my first-ever judge Conference, and I absolutely loved it! We pioneered one of the first Conferences in the world with all the fear, uncertainties and doubts about how they would fit in the Judge Program. The feedback we received from all the judges who attended was simply tremendous!
And seven years later, Conferences still make me as excited as I was back then. I strive for the feeling of a group of judges gathering together to learn new tricks, to share experiences and to build and develop of the judge program. Meetings outside events bring judges closer together, and by socializing we become more friends than colleagues.
Gotta Find ‘em All
Nowadays official judge Conferences happen weekly around the globe and you may find them listed on Judge Apps. If you want to join one, follow the link to Judge Apps and submit your application.
Conferences may or may not be linked to an event:
- Event Conferences: they are run the day before or after a multi-day event (typically a GP) and are a nice opportunity to bring together an international group of judges that may offer several different points of view on the topics. The location is often a nearby store or the same venue as the event and they are usually 6-8 hours long.
- Standalone Conferences: they are run independently of events, usually on weekends (Saturday and/or Sunday). They are region based and may be of public access (i.e. all judges are invited) or of limited access (i.e. only for L2+ judges). Topics are usually more centered around regional needs and you have the opportunity to meet and spend quality time with the judges of your entire region. They are on average 10-12 hours long, divided on multiple days.
There are also many unofficial judge Conferences which tend to be more local-based with judges not travelling from so far away and the Leadership Conferences which serve a particular region management purpose.
Before Your First Conference
Once you locate a Conference you’re interested in attending, be sure to apply in time through Judge Apps so that a slot may be reserved for you. You may have to answer a few questions (e.g topics you’d like to be discussed, logistical details, …) that will help the organizers tailor the experience on the needs of all the attendees. Applying in good time helps the organizers to locate a proper venue to accommodate all the judges.
When the application window closes and you’re accepted to the conference, you’ll need to plan your travel and where you’ll spend the night(s) (if needed). Check if one of the attending judges lives close to you: you may be able to share a car or join them on a train or a plane to spend the time together. You may also post a topic on the Conference forum asking for advice or looking for roommates.
Make solid plans by few weeks before the Conference and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
During Your First Conference
Yes, you made it to your first Conference! What should you expect from it?
- Learning: there will be several seminars presented during the Conference (usually 6 to 12) by judges who are experts on the topic. The range of topics may cover many judge areas, like rules, policy, tournament operations, certification process, judge community, personal improvement, reviews, … just to name a few! You may also find different seminars running at the same time aimed at judges of different experience, so that you may find the best topic for you. The full schedule of the seminars will be announced before the Conference and published on the JudgeApps event, so take your time to select your best path.
- Testing: Conferences are a good option for testing for L1 or L2, because you’ll usually find at least one L3+ (attending, presenting, organizing or all of the above!). Be sure to write in your application that you’d like to test and get in contact soon with your mentors so that your preparation will be as smooth as possible.
- Community: you’ll be able to spend quality time with several judges you’ve never met and with some judges that you’ve spent some time with on the floor before. Expanding your network of contacts is an enormous opportunity to increase the amount of feedback you receive, join projects, get in touch with different communities and make yourself known to possible future HJs for possible future events.
- Social activities: do you like to have huge dinners with friends? Check! Do you like to draft with friends? Check! Are you an avid boardgamer? Check! Do you enjoy talking to friends while having a few beers? Check! Do you like sunbathing on the beach? Check! And these are only a few of the activities that happen at Conferences while you’re waiting for the next day… or the next seminar!
- Travelling: sometimes we say “Judge the Game, See the World!” But this applies to Conferences as well: many open regional Conferences happen at amazing locations (I heard of a Thailand conference in Phuket, for example!)… be sure not to miss this chance!
The Judge Program believes in Conferences as one of the best opportunities for improving the quality of the judges, both by mentoring and by building communities. As such, attendees at the official Conferences receive a token of gratitude from WotC in form of Judge Foils for our willingness to continuously improve.
Every region has the possibility to run three official conferences during a year: two open ones (either for all certified judges or with some area or level criteria) and a leadership one (for the leaders of the region). Double check with your RC or your friendly neighborhood L3 about their yearly plans and don’t forget to apply when you see the announcements on Judge Apps.
After Your First Conference
I’m sure you enjoyed your first judge Conference: I hope you learned something new, you made better connections with other judges and spent some time having fun with old and new friends. If so, feel free to share some of your experience with the judges that were not able to join you, by posting pictures on social media or by writing your notes in form of a report of the Conference. Remember that we become stronger by helping others become stronger!
And if you’d like to actively contribute to your next Conference (because we both know that Conferences are addictive!), start thinking about becoming a presenter yourself. Stay tuned on this blog because you may read a few articles that will convince you that there is a presenter deep inside you that is just waiting for his chance.
And of course, we have to talk together about our experiences from our first Conference the next time we meet… maybe on the floor, maybe at a party or maybe at the next Conference!
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